"You tell me we can start the rain
You tell me that we all can change
You tell me we can find something to wash the tears away."
Rainmaker - Iron Maiden
I did something today which sounds small, but as a gesture towards the well being of the inside of my head I think it was deceptively momentous.
I threw out all the clothes which no longer fit me or aren't comfortable post developing my array of chronic quirks. For the most part this means I've turned my back on jeans and given up on trying to fit into everything I used to wear with ease to just to try and prove a point to myself.
I know, it sounds like nothing more than a part of a normal spring clean. I just realised part way through that this was me finally letting go of my old body. Whilst I've moved forward in my thinking with my limitations, my dietary issues, the aches and pains and all the other symptoms themselves, I hadn't until now quite moved ahead with how I felt about the changes to my body.
Filling that bag was piece by piece putting all the worry, anger and upset away and affirming that I don't need it any more. Subconsciously I suspect I'd been clinging to the hope that somehow I'd wake up one day and my shape would have returned to what it once was, which was as foolish as it was unhelpful.
I've said on numerous occasions my only consistent pain relief is exercise. Now, when your diet doesn't change or maybe even cleans up a little and the amount of exercise you do increases, one of two things happen. You lose weight, or you build muscle. I've never carried very much in the way of excess weight so this left me with only the latter option.
The beginnings of a visible six pack? That I can live with and some days I'm even slightly proud of it. And to be honest with some thought, once the initial "Oh good lord, more leg muscle means bigger thighs" anxiety passed, there's nothing to be ashamed of in legs with a bit more shape to them - even when unplanned.
It occurred to me that fighting with very close fitting garments when you possess an alarming tendency for bloating was only ever going to be a losing battle and only served to be a stick I could continually beat myself with.
Well, said stick has been made into kindling for me to burn at my leisure.
The reality is whilst it's the only thing that works I cannot afford to let up on the exercise, and given that my body adjusts I seem to gradually need to do more of it to achieve the same effect. Given that these changes are only going to continue and it's about time I commanded the reins of the chariot of my confidence and swapped the horse of positive self image into the right hand harness.
So I don't look like I used to. Why does this have to be a wholly negative scenario? It doesn't, but for some reason I'd let myself believe it did. If you use the internet with any regularity you'll no doubt have seen plenty of body positivity messages about loving yourself flaws and all - as with many things it turns out it's an ever changing learning curve. Just because something changes doesn't mean you can't like the new as much as you did the old.
This seems a little wide of the mark in terms of relating to illness, but I assure you there's a purpose here. I've always believed your mental well being is one of the most important aspects in allowing you to find how to cope with chronic illness and all the challenges it brings. Allowing myself to keep raking over the same ground with my self image let the thought become insidious, and it started to have wider reaching effects on my overall outlook.
What brought all this introspection and new resolve on, you ask? I bought myself an Iron Maiden dress. Reading the measurements I realised the changes would actually make it a better fit rather than a more difficult one.
(The rather lovely handiwork of kittyvampdesigns on Etsy.)
When you find a lovely dress you can't help but fall in love with and unintentional muscle development will make it look nicer than it may have done previously, there are only two things you can do.
Accept and embrace the changes, and buy the dress just as fast as possible.
Has anyone else had issues with self confidence and self image as a result of their chronic ill health? How did you overcome it?
Wishing you all many spoons xx